JULIAN OF NORWICH, HER SHOWING OF LOVE AND ITS CONTEXTS ©1997-2017 JULIA BOLTON HOLLOWAY  || JULIAN OF NORWICH  || SHOWING OF LOVE || HER TEXTS || HER SELF || ABOUT HER TEXTS || BEFORE JULIAN || HER CONTEMPORARIES || AFTER JULIAN || JULIAN IN OUR TIME ||  ST BIRGITTA OF SWEDEN  ||  BIBLE AND WOMEN || EQUALLY IN GOD'S IMAGE  || MIRROR OF SAINTS || BENEDICTINISM || THE CLOISTER || ITS SCRIPTORIUM  || AMHERST MANUSCRIPT || PRAYER || CATALOGUE AND PORTFOLIO (HANDCRAFTS, BOOKS ) || BOOK REVIEWS || BIBLIOGRAPHY || Latin and Swedish Texts of the Brigittine Lessons are published in Den heliga Birgitta och den helige Petrus av Skänninge, Officium parvum beate Marie Virginis, ed. Tryggve Lundén (Lund, 1976), Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis: Studia Historico-Ecclesiastica Upsaliensia 27-28; Latin Text, Sancta Birgitta, Opera Minora II: Sermo Angelicus (Revelationes XI ), ed. Sten Eklund (Uppsala: Almqvist and Wiksells, 1972); Middle English Text in The Myroure of oure Ladye, ed. John Henry Blunt ( Early English Text Society , Extra Series, 29), Modern English Text in The Word of the Angel, trans. John Halborg (Peregrina Publishing Co). This modern English version below is read daily at Syon Abbey in Devon.
 

SYON ABBEY

ST BIRGITTA'S LESSONS

LESSONS FOR THE FIRST WEEK
 
 

SUNDAY

First Reading

{When John in his Gospel speaks of the Word,
that is he who is, and has ever been,
with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God,
In this one God, there are truly Three Persons;
yet not three Gods,
for in the Three Persons is only one divinity,
the one, perfect Godhead,
belonging equally to each;
and in the Three Persons,
only one will,
one wisdom, one power,
one beauty, one strength,
one love, one joy.
The Word, then,
being for ever one with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
is truly God.

A familiar word like ONE can help us, perhaps, to understand -
for each of the three letters is necessary to the whole,
and we cannot take awau one letter without destroying the meaning.
So in God,
there must ever be the Three Persons,
equal in all things,
with all things equally in each,
for there can be no dividing of God.

There was no dividing when the Word, the Son of God,
took a human nature;
he was not separated, by this, from the Father and the Holy Spirit.
He took our human nature,
yet remained ever the Word of God.
His human nature was necessary for him.
to achieve our salvation.
It can help us to understand this
if we consider how our thoughts and our words
are not things we can see or touch,
except in so far as writing gives them a more material existence.



Second Reading

{The Word of God, the Son of God,
could not have come as one of us,
or lived with us, for our salvation,
unless he had taken on our human nature.
A written word can be seen and read,
then understood, then spoken.
The Son of God can be seen, in that flesh he took to himself,
and so we can understand and have no doubt
that he is one with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
Truly then, there are Three Persons,
undivided,
unchanging and unchangeable,
eternally in all things equal,
Three, yet but one God.

Since God is eternal and timeless,
all things were eternally known to him,
before their existence in time.
Then, when he willed them to be,
they came to be
with that exact perfection which suited their purpose.
The divine wisdom of God willed all things to be what they are
for his own honour and glory.
He had no need of them;
it was not to make up for any deficiency in himself -
something wanting to his goodness or joy -
there can be no defect or deficiency in God.
It was his love,
and his love alone,
which led him to create;
that there might be beings, apart from himself,
whose existence should be an existence of joy,
deriving from his own being an joy.
All things, then,
foreseen by God,
and present to him eternally, though as yet uncreated,
had already that design and perfection which they would possess
when his creating brought them to be.

One thing excelled all others,
designed and perfected by God with a special joy.
This was Mary,
the Virgin who was a Mother,
the Mother who was ever a Virgin.


Third Reading

{It has been said that all created things are made up of four elements -
fire, air, water and earth.
If so, then in Mary's pure body,
these elements were to have a special perfection:
the air should be fittingly an image of the Holy Spirit;
the earth should be rich and fruitful,
for the growth of useful things, to supply every need;
the water should be calm and unmenacing,
unruffled by every wind;
and the fire so strong and bright
that all the earth should be warmed by it,
and the heavens themselves.
Virgin Mary,
we know that in you the design and perfection willed by God
have come to be.
As he foresaw you,
so he has perfectly created you.
And of all his creation,
you most please him.

The Father rejoiced that he would do so much through you:
the Son rejoiced in your holiness and love:
the Holy Spirit rejoiced in your lowliness and obedience.

The Father's joy is that of the Son and the Holy Spirit:
the Son's joy is that of the Father and Spirit:
and the Holy Spirit's joy is that of the Father and the Son.

Father, Son and Holy Spirit rejoice in you,
the one joy of Three who are One.
Father, Son and Holy Spirit love you, Mary,
the love of the Three Persons, One God.


MONDAY


First Reading

{It was love that led God to create.
There could be nothing lacking in God,
nothing wanting to his goodness or his joy.
It was out of love alone that he willed creation,
that there might be beings, apart from himself,
who would partake of his infinite goodness and joy.
So the Angels came to be,
created by God in countless numbers.
To them he gave free will,
freedom to act, in accordance with their nature,
as they willed.
As he himself is under no necessity
but has created out of love alone,
he will that the Angels,
whom he designed for eternal happiness with him,
should likewise be under no necessity.
He looked for love in response to his love,
obedience to his offer of eternal joy.


Second Reading

{Yet in the first moment of their creation,
there were Angels who chose, freely and deliberately
against their Creator,
in spite of his infinite love, which called them to love in return.
Justly they fell, fixed in their evil will,
from an eternal joy into an eternal misery.
But not all fell.
To those Angels who chose love for love,
there was given the contemplation of God
in all his glory, power and holiness.
From this contemplation, they came to know the eternity of God,
that he has no beginning and no end;
they learnt what it meant to have him for their Creator;
and they saw most clearly
how everything they possessed had come to them from his love
and his power.
They learnt too that his wisdom had given them a wisdom of their own,
bu which he allowed them to foresee the future.
And it was a joy and consolation to them
to know that God in his mercy and love
wished to replace, in his own way,
those Angels who had forfeited by pride and envy
their place in heaven.


Third Reading

{In their contemplation of God,
the Angels saw with wonder
a throne placed next to that of God himself.
They knew that the one for whom this throne had been prepared
had not yet been created.
Yet already they loved this chosen one,
and rejoiced as they waited.
Their love for each other was born of their love for God.
But between these two loves they saw one who was more lovable
than themselves,
one whom God loves with great joy
more than all his creatures.

Virgin Mary, you were the chosen one,
destined for that throne near to the throne of God.
It was you whom the Angels loved, after God,
from the first moment of their creation,
seeing in the contemplation of God,
how beautiful he had made themselves,
but how much more beautiful he would make you.
They saw that in you there would be a love and a joy far greater
than their own.
They saw too the crown that awaited you,
a crown of glory and beauty supassed only by the majesty of God.
They knew how God their Creator was glorified by themselves and they rejoiced.
They knew how much more he would be glorified by you,
and they rejoiced still more.
Before ever you were created, Mary,
God and Angels together rejoiced in you.



TUESDAY


First Reading

{We read in the Bible of Adam's original state of happiness.
Then of his disobedience to God,
which brought so much suffering and sorrow.
We are not told that he continued in disobedience.
From his conduct after Cain had killed Abel,
his refraining from intercourse with Eve
until he knew that this was no longer the will of God,
we may judge that the love and service of God was his first thought.
His sorrow was not so much the unhappiness he had brought on himself,
but rather the offence he had committed against God.
Created by God, owing his exisentence and his happiness to God,
he had turned against God,
and so justly deserved God's anger.
This was true sorrow,
bringing with it reprentance and humility.
And with this true sorrow came also consolation from God.

One thing, and one thing only, could have fully consoled him -
the promise that God himself should come as man,
of Adam's own race,
and by love and humility redeem that race which his pride
had deprived of life.


Second Reading

{That God should be born as men are born was unthinkable.
Adam and Eve owed their beginning in some way to a special creation by God.
Even this would not be fitting for the coming of God to earth.

It would seem that Adam understood from God's words
something of what was to be.
At least, we may picture him foreseeing the future,
foreseeing a woman, like Eve in womanhood,
but lovelier and holier than all of his race,
a virgin and mother,
bringing God himself to this world.

We may think of him grieving at the words spoken to Eve by the Devil.
But rejoicing, his sorrow turned to joy,
at the thought, Mary, of your words to the Angel.
We may think of him grieving that Eve his wife,
created by God from his body,
had deceived him and drawn him on to eternal death.
But rejoicing that you, Virgin Mary, would bear in all purity
Christ, the Son of God, to restore man to life.
Grieving that Eve's first act was of disobedience;
rejoicing that you, Mary, would be a daughter of God,
most dear to him in all things,
ever obedient to his will.


Third Reading

{Grieving that Eve had been tempted,
in the sight of God and all the Angels,
by the false promise of being made like to God;
rejoicing that in the sight of God and the Angels,
you, Mary, would acknowledge yourself the Handmaid of God.
Grieving that Eve had offended God,
and brought about the condemnation of man;
rejoicing that your word to God should bring such joy
to yourself and to all men.
Grieving that Eve had closed to man the gate of heaven;
rejoicing that your word had opened that gate again
to yourself and to all who sought to enter.

So we may think of Adam rejoicing with great joy
at the thought, Mary, of your coming,
as we know the Angels rejoiced,
before the creation of the world,
foreseeing your creation by God.


WEDNESDAY


First Reading

{Before God made known his law to Moses,
man had to live without a rule of life.
Those who loved God, did what they thought was God's will.
Those who rejected his love, and did not fear to do so,
acted as they chose.
To dispel their ignorance,
God in his goodness made known his law,
teaching first the love of God,
then love for others,
then his will concerning marriage,
its holiness and binding force,
its purpose in his plan - the growth of his people.

The union of man and woman in a holy marriage was most pleasing to God,
for he willed to choose the child of such a union
as the Mother of Christ.

The eagle, flying above the earth, looks down at the trees,
and choosing with its sharp eyes the tallest tree,
one firmly rooted to withstand the storms,
one that cannot be climbed,
one that nothing can fall on,
builds there its next,
God sees, with penetrating gaze, all things, both present and future.


Second Reading

{He looked therefore among all men and women,
from the beginning to the end of time,
for a husband and wife fit for the bearing of the child of his choice.
He found none so worthy as Joachim and Anne,
who lived together in holiness
and a love for each other born of their love for him.
It was to them he entrusted the one who was to be Mother of his Son.
She was to be, as it were, the eagle's nest,
in which he could find protection and shelter.
Joachim and Anne were the tall tree in which this nest would be built,
firmly rooted in a union based on the love and honour of God;
the branches of this tree their lifelong thought for the will of God,
and their desire for a child, not for their own sake,
but to beget one who would grow to love God and serve him
as they themselves did.
The tallness of this tree,
beyond the reach of the winds, and higher than all around,
was the height of holiness which Joachim and Anne had attained,
beyond the attacks of Satan,
untroubled, except by the thought that God's honour
was many times assailed by the sins of many,
with no thought of honour or worldly possessions,
no pride or ambition to move them from their selfless love of God.


Third Reading

{God knew that for the birth of the Mother of Christ,
none holier could be found than Joachim and Anne.

What a treasure you held, blessed Anne,
while she who was to be Mother of God rested in your womb.
How precious to God that seed of Mary's life in your womb,
more precious than the offspring of all men on earth.

Anne became God's treasure-house,
keeping safe this most precious thing,
this seed of so precious a life.
God saw it and watched over it,
for as his Son was to say -
where one's treasure is, there is one's heart.
The Angels looked on this treasure with joy,
knowing how precious it was to God their Creator.

It was a holy and blessed day,
to be honoured by all,
the day when this precious seed was first sown.
God himself and the Angels greeted that day
with great rejoicing.


THURSDAY


First Reading

{Speaking of the beauty of Mary, we think of lovely things:
her sacred body is like a vase of purest crystal;
her soul like a lantern of clearest light;
her mind like a fountain of water rising up into the air,
then falling in cool streams to the deep valley.

Passing from infancy to childhood,
to the age when she was able to understand,
she began to think of the existence of God,
and how he made all things,
and especially man,
for his own eternal glory,
and how his justice embraces all things.
Her thoughts reached out to God,
as the waters of the fountain rise into the air;
then, like those waters flowing down to the valley,
her thoughts returned to herself
and brought her a most profound humility.

The Church sings of Christ leaving and returning to the Father,
though he was ever with the Father
and the Father ever with him.
Mary's thoughts reached up to heaven in contemplation
and grapsed God by faith.
Then in the love with which God possessed her,
she turned her mind again to God and to herself,
never losing her thought of God.
Together with hope and trust, and with holy fear,
the fire of this love inflamed her heart,
as the flame is the brightness of the lantern.


Second Reading

{She understood the perfect subjection of body to soul,
and no discord ever troubled her,
so that in body she was purer than purest crystal.

How soon she learnt to appreciate God's love,
and treasure it with all her being!

Think of this love as a lily which God had planted,
with a threefold root,
bearing three flowers of great beauty.
The three roots are three most powerful virtues, protecting her body.
The three flowers, three adornments of her soul,
which gave great joy to God and the Angels.

The first of the three virtues was her abstinence,
her right use of God's gifts of food and drink -
no over-indulgence to make her slow in the service of God,
no unwise austerity to impair her health.
The second was her wakefulness,
so that she rested no longer than was necessary -
not wasting God's time in laziness,
but not fatiguing herself to the detriment of her work.
The third was her command over her will,
so that she was not easily wearied in body,
and never over-anxious or over-excited.


Third Reading

{The first adornment of her soul was her love for the things of God
rather than the things of earth,
no matter how beautiful these might seem to be.
The things men so often prize,
possessions and wealth,
were utterly distasteful to her.
The second adornment was her appreciation of the infinite distance
between worldly honours and spiritual glory.
This world's praises were as abhorrent to her as the poisoning air of corruption.
The third adornment was her love for all that God loves,
her repugance for all that was hateful and displeasing to him.
She sought in all things the true sweetness of God,
and no taste of bitterness was permitted to endure in her after her death.

With such beauty of soul,
Mary surpassed all other created things.
God willed that only through her should his promise be fulfilled.
Her love left no blemish or defect, not even the smallest.
In nothing could the enemy claim victory over her.
If then she was so pleasing in the sight of God and the Angels,
may we not think that she had also great earthly beauty?
Those who saw her looked with delight,
and knew that her loveliness was born of her love for God.
They saw her, and loved to see her,
and were led to a new love for God.
They watched her, and loved to be with her,
and knew that no evil could touch them,
nothing sinful attract them,
in the presence of her beauty and holiness.


FRIDAY


{We are told that Mary was afraid
when the Angel appeared and spoke to her.
It was not fear of any bodily harm to herself,
but dismay at the thought that this might be a trick of Satan,
to lead her into sin.

At the moment when her mind first knew God and his holy will,
she had chosen for herself a life of love,
and this brought with it a wise and holy fear of God.

It is our delight to call Mary a rose of great beauty.
We know that the lovelier and healthier the rose,
the stronger and sharper are the thorns which surround it.
It Mary is a rose of beauty,
she will not be untouched by the sharp thorns or trial and sorrow.
Indeed, as the days of her life went by,
her sorrows increased in bitterness and pressed more heavily upon her.
Her first sorrow was that fear of God which her knowledge
of his existence and his will had brought her.
It was a sorrow to her
that in all she did, she must keep in mind
the thought and threat of sin.
She directed each thought, word and work to God,
but there was always the fear
that some defect might creep in
to lessen its value in his eyes.

How foolish are those who deliberately and without fear
throw themselves into all kinds of sin,
bringing on themselves suffering and sorrow.


Second Reading

{Mary was sinless, and immune from sin.
Everything she did pleased God.
In every way she was entirely pleasing to him.
Yet she never allowed herself to be free from the fear of displeasing him.
A greater sorrow still was in her heart,
for she knew from the writings of the Prophets
that God willed to come as man,
and suffer as man.
In her love for God, this caused her great grief,
though she did not yet know that she was to be the Mother of God.
When that moment arrived,
the moment when she knew that the Son of God had become her Son,
to take in her womb that human body which was to suffer
as the Propehts had foretold -
who could measure her joy?
Who could measure her sorrow?
Like the rose, she had grown in beauty,
but the thorns had grown too,
stronger and sharper and more piercing.

To Mary it was joy beyond words
that her son should come in humility to lead man to heaven,
saving him from the penalty which Adam's pride had incurred,
the misery of hell.

It was great sorrow
that the sin of Adam by which man rebelled in both body and soul
should require the redeeming death of her Son
in such agony of body and soul.


Third Reading

{It was great joy to her
to conceive her Son in sinlessness and purity.
It was great sorrow to her
that this so loved son was born to suffer a shameful death,
and that she herself would be there to stand and see.
Great joy to know that he would rise from death,
and win in return for his Passion
an everlasting honour and glory;
great sorrow to know that this glory would not be won
except by the agony and shame of the Cross.

The perfect rose blooms in beauty on its stem,
and our delight is not spoiled by the sharp thorns around it.
The sharp thorns of Mary's sorrow piercing her heart
could not change her or weaken her will,
and in her suffering
she accpeted whatever God's will should demand of her.

We call her a Rose of Jericho,
for men say that nowhere can so lovely a rose be found.
In her holiness,
Mary is more beautiful than all mankind,
surpassed only by her Son.

To God and the Angels in heaven,
her patience and willing endurance brought joy.
To all on earth, it must be a joy
to meditate on her sufferings so willingly accepted,
and on that consolation she had ever in her heart,
that all was the will of God.


SATURDAY


First Reading

{We read that the Queen of Sheba made the long journey from her own lands
in the south to visit Solomon the King.
Her journey was not wasted,
for she found great delight in his words.
No gifts were too precious for her to give,
no praise too high,
and she departed in admiration of such great wisdom.

The Virgin Mary spent long hours in thought,
considering the course of events in this world,
and all the things that this world holds dear.
Nothing delighted or attracted her,
except the wisdom she had learned from God.
This was her desire and her search,
and she did not rest till she had found it in Christ.
In the Son of God she found wisdom infinitely greater than Solomon's.

The Queen of Sheba was overcome with wonder
as she contemplated the wisdom of Solomon.
Mary was overcome with sorrow as she pondered the loving wisdom of Christ,
who saw salvation in suffering,
and willed to save man from subjection to Satan
by his sufferings and cross.

When at last the sufferings of Christ were over,
Mary looked up from the depths of her sorrow,
ever offering herself and her will to God for his glory,
gifts most precious to him.
Gifts too of another kind,
for many were led to the truth of God by her faith.
No words or works of men were so powerful
to bring men to God.
Many lost faith when they saw Christ die.
She alone withstood the unbelief of men,
seeing in Christ her Son the Son of God,
over whose Godhead death could have no dominion.


Second Reading

{When the third day came,
it brought bewilderment and anxiety to the Disciples.
The women going to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus
sought him and could not find him.
The Apostles were gathered together in their fear, guarding the doors.
Then, surely, though we are not told of this in the Gospels,
Mary spoke of the resurrection of her Son,
that he had truly risen from death,
that he was alive again in all his humanity,
no more subject to death,
risen to an eternal glory.

We read that Mary Magdalen and the Apostles were first to see the risen Christ.
But we may believe that Mary his Mother knew of his rising before all others,
and that she was the first to see him.
It was Mary in her lowliness who first gave praise and adoration to the risen Christ.

When Christ ascended to the glory of his kingdom,
the Virgin Mary remained on earth.
We cannot know what her presence meant to so many.
Those who loved God were strengthened in their love;
those who had turned from him were brought back to his love.

The Apostles looked to her for guidance and counsel.
The Martyrs found in her, courage to face suffering and death.
The Confessors of the Faith were strengthened in their believing.
Virgins were drawn to her purity.
Widows were consoled by her sorrows.
Husbands and wives found in her a pattern of perfection.
All who heard and obeyed the word of God
found in Mary great comfort and help.


Third Reading

{Whenever the Apostles came to her,
she was able to teach them about Christ,
and help them to understand.
The Martyrs rejoiced to suffer for Christ,
for he had suffered for all.
They remembered the long years of sorrow borne so patiently by Mary his Mother,
and they bore their martyrdom even more readily.
The Confessors, meditating on Mary, learnt many things about the truths of the Faith.
From her example, they learnt too the wise use of earthly things,
food, drink and sleep, work and rest.
and how to order their lives in all things
to the honour and glory of God.
Virgins learnt from Mary's example true chastity in virtue.
They learnt too the wise use of their time,
how to avoid vanity and foolish talk,
and see all things in the light of true holiness.
Widows learnt from her, consolation in sorrow,
strength against temptation,
and humble submission to God's will.
With a mother's love,
Mary could never have wished for the death of her Son,
still less for the death of the Son of God.
Yet she willed in all things the will of God.
She chose for God's sake the humble acceptance of suffering and sorrow.
Husbands and wives learnt from Mary true love for each other, in body and in soul,
and the union of their wills, as of their flesh,
in all that the will of God demanded.
They learnt how she had united herself for ever with God by faith,
and never in any way shown resistance to his divine will.


{These Lessons, composed in the Fourteenth Century in Rome by St Birgitta of Sweden, who herself had borne eight children, are still recited daily at Syon Abbey, Totnes, Devon, by Brigittine nuns who wear the black veil with white crossed crown and five red circlets at each interstice for the wounds of Christ above blue grey habits. The Lady Abbess gave them to me for you. They are written by a woman for women. These same Brigittine nuns also preserved Julian of Norwich's Showing of Love, at a time when Catholic contemplative texts were forbidden.

{ Read these Lessons on the days appointed for them. Read them in prayer. Meditate upon them. Take them with you in your mind, in your soul, like the Virgin, pondering on all these things in her heart, as you go about your daily business in the world. Taste, and see, that the Lord is good.
 
 

Go to Second Week of Syon Abbey Brigittine Offices
 

JULIAN OF NORWICH, HER SHOWING OF LOVE AND ITS CONTEXTS ©1997-2017 JULIA BOLTON HOLLOWAY  || JULIAN OF NORWICH  || SHOWING OF LOVE || HER TEXTS || HER SELF || ABOUT HER TEXTS || BEFORE JULIAN || HER CONTEMPORARIES || AFTER JULIAN || JULIAN IN OUR TIME ||  ST BIRGITTA OF SWEDEN  ||  BIBLE AND WOMEN || EQUALLY IN GOD'S IMAGE  || MIRROR OF SAINTS || BENEDICTINISM || THE CLOISTER || ITS SCRIPTORIUM  || AMHERST MANUSCRIPT || PRAYER || CATALOGUE AND PORTFOLIO (HANDCRAFTS, BOOKS ) || BOOK REVIEWS || BIBLIOGRAPHY ||